Karzai caps number of US bases in postwar Afghanistan

Under the terms proposed by Karzai on Thursday, U.S. commanders will be able to retain major military bases in Kabul, Bagram and Kandahar according to Agence France-Presse

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Other American bases in Helmand Province in southern Afghanistan, Gardez and Jalalabad in the east, Mazar-i-Sharif in the north and Shindand and Herat in the west would also remain after the 2014 withdrawal, according to Karzai. 

"We agree to give you the bases," Karzai told reporters in Kabul. "We see their staying in Afghanistan beyond 2014 in the interests of Afghanistan as well as NATO."

Bagram, Kandahar and Mazar-i-Sharif are the largest American bases in their respective parts of the country. Shindand is the headquarters and main training facility for the burgeoning Afghan Air Force.

It remains unclear how many American and NATO troops would be needed to hold those bases, and what specific missions Western forces would carry out from those locations. 

Previous American postwar plans included maintaining based in Kabul and Bagram, manned by a total force of 6,000 American troops. 

Karzai made clear the only way Washington would be able to keep the nine bases is if the U.S. and NATO committed to continued support of the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) and "concrete support to the economy." 

"If these are met, we are ready to sign the [postwar] security pact," Karzai said. 

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters Thursday the Obama administration is not actively seeking permanent bases in Afghanstan. 

Any postwar U.S. presence in the country "would only be at the invitation of the Afghan government and aimed at training Afghan forces and targeting the remnants of Al Qaeda," according to Carney. 

Carney's comments come as Washington and its allies continue to hammer out details on final postwar strategy and subsequent troop levels in Afghanistan. 

The White House has reportedly championed a postwar U.S. force of between 8,000 to 10,000 troops. 

Administration officials have also floated the notion of leaving no American soldiers behind after the withdrawal deadline. 

In March, Gen. Joseph Dunford, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, reportedly told House Armed Services Committee chief Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) that they backed Mattis’s recommendation for 13,600 troops.

But Dunford backed off those claims during hearings in April before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Afghanistan. 

At the time, Dunford told committee members the situation in the country was too fluid for him to support the 13,600-man U.S. force for postwar Afghanistan, saying said U.S. commanders needed more time before settling on a troop figure. 

U.S. ground commanders are already in the midst of shuttering dozens of smaller firebases across the country in preparation for the American withdrawal next year. 

Nearly 20 forward operating bases in Paktika and Khost provinces in eastern Afghanistan are slated for closure this year, American commanders told The Hill last November. 

Roughly 66,000 American troops remain in Afghanistan, with half of those forces scheduled to withdraw from the country this spring. 

The final 32,000 American forces remaining in country will start coming home following the country's presidential election in April 2014, officially ending America's combat role in the country.

--updated at 2:17pm to include White House comment